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Space

NASA Launches Super Balloon To Detect Cosmic Particles From Near Space (nzherald.co.nz) 9

"After seven unsuccessful attempts NASA has launched a stadium-sized balloon in Wanaka," reports the New Zealand Herald, adding that the super-pressure balloon will collect data from "near space" over the next 100 days. Reuters reports: The balloon, designed by NASA to detect ultra-high energy cosmic particles from beyond the galaxy as they penetrate the earth's atmosphere, is expected to circle the planet two or three times. "The origin of these particles is a great mystery that we'd like to solve. Do they come from massive black holes at the centre of galaxies? Tiny, fast-spinning stars? Or somewhere else?" Angela Olinto, a University of Chicago professor and lead investigator on the project, said in a statement.
Government

EPA Website Removes Climate Science Site From Public View After Two Decades (washingtonpost.com) 147

Last week there were reports that the EPA climate change website was set to be taken down, though later the EPA denied that. On Friday evening, however, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its website would be "undergoing changes" to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information (paywalled; alternative source). From a report on The Washington Post: One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA's new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration's Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions. The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were set to march in Washington and around the country in support of political action to push back against the Trump administration's rollbacks of former president Barack Obama's climate policies.
Medicine

Surgeon Plans To 'Reawaken' Cryogenically Frozen Brains, Transplant Them Into Someone Else's Skull (nationalpost.com) 116

Sergio Canavero, the Italian surgeon who plans to perform the world's first human head transplant within the next year, says he is preparing to reawaken cryogenically frozen brains and transplant them into someone else's skull. "In an interview with a German-language magazine, Canavero says he will attempt to bring the first brains frozen in liquid nitrogen at an Arizona-based cryogenics bank back to life 'not in 100 years,' but three years at the latest," reports National Post. From the report: Transplanting a brain only -- and not an entire head -- gets around formidable rejection issues, Canavero said, since there will be no need to reconnect and stitch up severed vessels, nerves, tendons and muscles as there is when a new head is fused onto a brain-dead donor body. Canavero allows that one "problematic" issue with brain transplants, however, would be that "no aspect of your original external body remains the same." "Your head is no longer there, your brain is transplanted into an entirely different skull," he told OOOM magazine, published by the same company that handles the Italian brain surgeon's public relations. The flamboyant neuroscientist who some ethicists have decried as "nuts" rattled the transplant world when he first outlined his plans for a human head transplant two years ago in the journal, Surgical Neurology International. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan called Canavero's latest proposal to merge head transplants with "resurrecting" the frozen dead beyond ridiculous. "People have their own doubts about whether anything can be salvaged from these frozen heads or bodies because of the damage freezing does," said Caplan, head of ethics at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York City. "Then saying that he has some technique for making this happen, that has never been demonstrated in frozen animals, is absurd."
Earth

Trump Order Helps Offshore Drilling, Stops Marine Sanctuary Expansion (arstechnica.com) 146

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In an executive order signed on Friday, President Trump directed his secretary of the interior to review current rules on offshore drilling and exploration. This review is likely to result in a relaxation of the strict protections the previous administration put on offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and in the Arctic. According to the Washington Post, a review of the rules is likely to "make millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing." At the same time, Trump's executive order directed the secretary of commerce to cease designating new marine sanctuaries or expanding any that already exist. According to USA Today, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is also "directed to review all designations and expansions of marine monuments or sanctuaries designated under the Antiquities Act within the last 10 years." The Post says this "includes Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which Obama quadrupled in size last year, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off Massachusetts." Although these reviews could take some time to complete, they put in motion a bid to favor extraction industries like oil and gas mining. "Today, we're unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying energy jobs," Trump reportedly told the Associated Press.
Robotics

MIT Creates 3D-Printing Robot That Can Construct a Home Off-Grid In 14 Hours (mit.edu) 62

Kristine Lofgren writes: Home building hasn't changed much over the years, but leave it to MIT to take things to the next level. A new technology built at MIT can construct a simple dome structure in 14 hours and it's powered by solar panels, so you can take it to remote areas. MIT's 3D-printing robot can construct the entire basic structure of a building and can be customized to fit the local terrain in ways that traditional methods can't do. It even has a built-in scoop so it can prepare the building site and gather its own construction materials. You can watch a video of the 3D-printing robot in action here.
Medicine

We're Getting Closer To Mass Production of Bones, Organs, and Implants (bloomberg.com) 53

Medical researchers have been able to create certain kinds of living cells with 3D printers for more than a decade. Now a few companies are getting closer to mass production of higher-order tissues (bone, cartilage, organs) and other individually tailored items, including implants. From an article: Organovo has successfully transplanted human liver tissue into mice to cure chronic liver failure. Pending the success of human trials, possible applications include the $3 billion market for inherited conditions such as hemophilia. [...] Aspect prints tissue cells to create structures that resemble parts of the human body, such as an airway or meniscus, to spur easier research on treatments for, say, asthma or muscle tears. By taking muscle cells from a lung, for example, the company built respiratory tissue that responded to common asthma inhalers as a person's body should. [...] Materialise designs custom 3D-printable implants, surgical guides, and other medical devices. It's waiting on approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for implants designed to fuse bones.
NASA

NASA Delays First Flight of New SLS Rocket Until 2019 (arstechnica.com) 107

schwit1 writes: Despite spending almost $19 billion and more than thirteen years of development, NASA today admitted that it will have to delay the first test flight of the SLS rocket from late 2018 to sometime in 2019. "We agree with the GAO that maintaining a November 2018 launch readiness date is not in the best interest of the program, and we are in the process of establishing a new target in 2019," wrote William Gerstenmaier, chief of NASA's human spaceflight program. "Caution should be used in referencing the report on the specific technical issues, but the overall conclusions are valid." The competition between the big government SLS/Orion program and private commercial space is downright embarrassing to the government. While SLS continues to be delayed, even after more than a decade of work and billions of wasted dollars, SpaceX is gearing up for the first flight of Falcon Heavy this year. And they will be doing it despite the fact that Congress took money from the commercial private space effort, delaying its progress, in order to throw more money at SLS/Orion.
Medicine

DNA-Based Test Can Spot Cancer Recurrence a Year Before Conventional Scans (theguardian.com) 24

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A revolutionary blood test has been shown to diagnose the recurrence of cancer up to a year in advance of conventional scans in a major lung cancer trial. The test, known as a liquid biopsy, could buy crucial time for doctors by indicating that cancer is growing in the body when tumors are not yet detectable on CT scans and long before the patient becomes aware of physical symptoms. It works by detecting free-floating mutated DNA, released into the bloodstream by dying cancer cells. In the trial of 100 lung cancer patients, scientists saw precipitous rises in tumor DNA in the blood of patients who would go on to relapse months, or even a year, later. In the latest trial, reported in the journal Nature, 100 patients with non-small cell lung cancer were followed from diagnosis through surgery and chemotherapy, having blood tests every six to eight weeks. By analyzing the patchwork of genetic faults in cells across each tumor, scientists created personalized genomic templates for each patient. This was then compared to the DNA floating in their blood, to assess whether a fraction of it matched that seen in their tumor.
China

US Space Firms Tell Washington: China Will Take Over the Moon if You're Not Careful (yahoo.com) 157

The US space industry is prodding the US government into refreshing its outdated laws on commercial activity beyond earth: scare it with talk of Chinese galactic domination. A report adds: At a Senate hearing on the space industry this week, companies that build rockets and space habitats and manufacture electronic goods in space spoke about a standard laundry list of complaints, from regulatory burdens to fears of subsidized competitors. But their message was wrapped in patriotic concerns about China's growing capacity for space action. These companies are eager for the US government to allow and invest in commercial activities in orbit and around the moon. Many think the laws governing action in space, and particularly the UN Space Treaty, need refreshing for an age when private companies are close to matching the space capacity of sovereign nations. The last major change was a law on asteroid mining passed in 2015.
Businesses

LinkedIn Testing 1970's-Style No-CS-Degree-Required Software Apprenticeships (mercurynews.com) 198

theodp writes: The Mercury News reports on REACH, a new software apprenticeship program that LinkedIn's engineering team started piloting this month, which offers people without Computer Science degrees an opportunity to get a foot in the door, as Microsoft-owned LinkedIn searches for ways to help diversify its workforce. For now, the 29 REACH participants are paid, but are only short-term LinkedIn employees (for the duration of the 6-month program). LinkedIn indicated it hopes to learn if tech internships could eventually be made part of the regular hiring process, perhaps unaware that no-CS-degree-required hiring for entry-level permanent positions in software development was standard practice in the 70's and 80's, back when women made up almost 40% of those working as programmers and in software-related fields, nearly double the percentage of women in LinkedIn's global 2016 tech workforce. Hey, even in tech hiring, everything old is new again!
NASA

NASA Inspector Says Agency Wasted $80 Million On An Inferior Spacesuit (arstechnica.com) 76

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When NASA began developing a rocket and spacecraft to return humans to the Moon a decade ago as part of the Constellation Program, the space agency started to think about the kinds of spacesuits astronauts would need in deep space and on the lunar surface. After this consideration, NASA awarded a $148 million contract to Oceaneering International, Inc. in 2009 to develop and produce such a spacesuit. However, President Obama canceled the Constellation program just a year later, in early 2010. Later that year, senior officials at the Johnson Space Center recommended canceling the Constellation spacesuit contract because the agency had its own engineers working on a new spacesuit and, well, NASA no longer had a clear need for deep-space spacesuits. However, the Houston officials were overruled by agency leaders at NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC. A new report released Wednesday by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin sharply criticizes this decision. "The continuation of this contract did not serve the best interests of the agency's spacesuit technology development efforts," the report states. In fact, the report found that NASA essentially squandered $80.6 million on the Oceaneering contract before it was finally ended last year.
China

Chinese, European Space Agencies In Talks To Build a Moon Base (techcrunch.com) 88

ESA's Pal Hvistendahl has confirmed via Bloomberg that Chinese and European space agencies are talking with one another about plans to build a base on the moon. The discussions "involve working together to build a human-occupied 'moon village' from which both agencies can potentially launch Mars missions, conduct research, and possibly explore commercial mining and tourism projects," reports TechCrunch. From the report: China's upcoming projects in space include a mission to collect samples from the moon via an uncrewed craft by the end of this year, and to also launch an exploratory mission to the far side of the moon next year, with the similar aim of returning samples for study. The ESA's collaboration with China thus far include participating in the study of those returned samples, and potentially sending a European astronaut to the Chinese space station (which is currently unoccupied) at some future date.
Medicine

Popular Belief That Saturated Fat Clogs Up Arteries Is a Myth, Experts Say (independent.ie) 271

schwit1 quotes a report from Irish Independent: The authors, led by Dr Aseem Malhotra, from Lister Hospital, Stevenage, wrote: "Despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat clogging a pipe is just plain wrong." Dr Malhotra and colleagues Professor Rita Redberg, from the University of California at San Francisco, and Pascal Meier from University Hospital Geneva in Switzerland and University College London, cited a "landmark" review of evidence that appeared to exonerate saturated fat. They said relative levels of "good" cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein (HDL), were a better predictor of heart disease risk than levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as "bad" cholesterol. High consumption of foods rich in saturated fat such as butter, cakes and fatty meat has been shown to increase blood levels of LDL. The experts wrote: "It is time to shift the public health message in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease away from measuring serum lipids (blood fats) and reducing dietary saturated fat. "Coronary artery disease is a chronic inflammatory disease and it can be reduced effectively by walking 22 minutes a day and eating real food." They pointed out that in clinical trials widening narrow arteries with stents -- stainless steel mesh devices -- failed to reduce the risk of heart attacks.
Earth

New Study Suggests Humans Lived In North America 130,000 Years Ago (npr.org) 236

An anonymous reader writes: In 1992, archaeologists working a highway construction site in San Diego County found the partial skeleton of a mastodon, an elephant-like animal now extinct. Mastodon skeletons aren't so unusual, but there was other strange stuff with it. "The remains were in association with a number of sharply broken rocks and broken bones," says Tom Demere, a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum. He says the rocks showed clear marks of having been used as hammers and an anvil. And some of the mastodon bones as well as a tooth showed fractures characteristic of being whacked, apparently with those stones. It looked like the work of humans. Yet there were no cut marks on the bones showing that the animal was butchered for meat. Demere thinks these people were after something else. "The suggestion is that this site is strictly for breaking bone," Demere says, "to produce blank material, raw material to make bone tools or to extract marrow." Marrow is a rich source of fatty calories. The scientists knew they'd uncovered something rare. But they didn't realize just how rare for years, until they got a reliable date on how old the bones were by using a uranium-thorium dating technology that didn't exist in the 1990s. The bones were 130,000 years old. That's a jaw-dropping date, as other evidence shows that the earliest humans got to the Americas about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
Medicine

Will the High-Tech Cities of the Future Be Utterly Lonely? (theweek.com) 108

adeelarshad82 writes from a report via The Week: The prospect of cities becoming sentient is "fast becoming the new reality," according to one paper. Take Tel Aviv for example, where everyone over the age of 13 can receive personalized data, such as traffic information, and can access free municipal Wi-Fi in 80 public zones. But in a future where robots sound and objects look increasingly sentient, we might be less inclined to seek out behaviors to abate our loneliness. Indeed, one recent study titled "Products as pals" finds that exposure to or interaction with anthropomorphic products -- which have characteristics of being alive -- partially satisfy our social needs, which means the human-like robots of tomorrow could kill our dwindling urge to be around other humans.

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